________________ CM . . . . Volume IV Number 11 . . . . January 30, 1998

cover When the Bear Stole the Chinook (A Siksika Tale).

Harriet Peck Taylor.
New York, NY: Farrar, Straus Giroux, 1997.
32 pp., hardcover, $21.50.
ISBN 0-374-30589-7.

Subject Headings:
Siksika Indians-Folklore.
Chinook winds-Folklore.

Preschool - grade 4 / Ages 4 - 9.
Review by Gail Hamilton.

**** /4


Suddenly the boy had an idea. "I'll blow smoke from my pipe into his den. When it starts to fill with smoke, Bear will become sleepy." The boy got out his pipe and filled it with tobacco. Then he climbed up to the smoke hole and puffed and puffed and puffed. Soon thick white clouds filled the den.

Bear's eyes became heavy and he yawned. "Aahhh." Pretty soon, the great Bear's snoring was so loud that even the ground rumbled.

Coyote crawled silently past Bear and grabbed the buffalo-hide bag that held the chinook. Carefully, he dragged it outside, where they saw that it was tied with heavy leather things.

Prairie Chicken stepped up and said, "Let me see if I can cut the thongs with my beak." She pecked hard and fast at the leather straps until they snapped and the bag fell open. The chinook rushed out with a loud whooosh!

image In this adaptation of a Blackfoot (now known as the Siksika) tale, the people are anxiously awaiting spring's arrival, for it has been a long winter and the food supply is diminishing. A young boy who has the ability to speak to animals asks Magpie to find out what has happened to the chinook, the warm wind which brings spring. Magpie finds out that Bear has stolen the chinook and has hidden it in his mountain den. The boy and his animal friends - Owl, Coyote, Weasel, Prairie Chicken and Magpie - journey to the Bear's den to try to get the chinook back. When their attempts fail, the boy decides to puff smoke into the den to sedate Bear. With help from Coyote, who steals the buffalo hide bag in which the chinook is kept, and Prairie Chicken, who pecks at the leather thongs that tie the bag, the chinook is finally released, spreading its warmth over the land. This event causes much rejoicing among the people, but, for Bear, who does not like the cold, it means that, from now on, he must stay in his den all winter and leave only when spring comes.

      Taylor's story captures the reader's imagination from its opening paragraph. Her simple, yet strong, words paint vivid pictures, enhanced by her brilliant batik illustrations. She draws her main characters using gently rounded shapes of bright colours with only the most basic of details and sets them against a background of dusky mauves, grays and blues, depicting the stark winter landscape. Each glorious illustration is a double-page spread, bordered at the top and bottom by various Siksika designs.

      A wonderful addition to any collection of Native Canadian folklore.

Highly recommended.

Gail Hamilton is a teacher-librarian at Bird's Hill School in East St. Paul, Manitoba.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © 1998 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364